Story of Stuff

Okay ya’ll. I have been putting this off post because it’s going to be hard on you. I shared Story of Stuff on facebook months ago and was surprised at how strongly some people reacted. They got all up in arms about the tone or labeled it one-sided. I disagree. The tone is really straight forward, it’s made for kids but trust me, you will learn A LOT.  As for it being one sided? I think we just aren’t accustomed to hearing truth without it being sugar coated to make it easier on us.

I’m not gonna lie, this is really long for the internet and I’m asking you to watch all of it, please. Sad that we rarely give anything 20 minutes of our undivided attention anymore, but that’s another post for another day.

The Story of Stuff

There is so much in this video that you need to consider. I’m putting this in front of you because we have become a nation of consumers and this explains how bad it’s become and how we got here. It’s hard to swallow. I’ve done a lot to change my consumption, but when they get to the perceived obsolescence in fashion, I realized I’m not out of the beast yet. Not to say we can’t all have our something. The problem is we all have our everything and that’s not sustainable. The two things that really struck me are the people that are invisible in the system and the idea that we are, first and foremost, consumers. Note: the video on the Story of Stuff website is excellent quality, if this embedded video gives you attitude:

The people who are less important in the system

I have many dear friends who are in this country illegally. It makes me crazy when US citizens (read angry white people) get all up in arms about immigrants taking jobs. Yet these same people would never want their sons or daughters to have the jobs these immigrants have to take. What parent aspires for their daughter to work at a toxic factory? Or a meat processing plant? When is the last time you saw a high schooler working on a construction site for the summer?

We are not raising our children to do manual labor or work in manufacturing, yet want to vilify those who must. The lyrics from this most powerful song from J-Boogie (Dubtronic Science) and Deuce Eclipse (Zion I) sum up our embarrassing attitude:

I come across the border, you stop me? Que pasa?
When I’m in the courtroom, I’m guilty? Que pasa?
Something goes wrong, who you mad at? My Raza.
And why you trippin’? I built your new casa!

Things get ugly when we talk about race.
Then they get scary with the color of my face.
Don’t put me on the news, it’s a damn disgrace.
You took away my land and complained about space.

Let me put the subject out here in the open.
Treat me like an enemy, you got me in your scope and
Now a days violence is the key to success.
My people work in this country and take away your stress, yes.

Our consumption affects families in ways you can’t fathom

Two of my friends are mothers with children on both sides of the US border. These women have not seen their daughters in their country of origin in many years. One of the daughters in Guatemala had a serious car accident and had to have a leg amputated. Her mother couldn’t get to her, both for financial reasons and because she couldn’t risk not getting back to the two year old on this side of the border. Just writing this makes me tear up. I’m telling you this, because we need to make the invisible people people of the system visible. We have to acknowledge that our standard of of living, hell, our embarrassment of riches, is on the backs of people who have no voice. Everybody loses when families are broken and your excess is on the backs of others.

These are the people that are not of value to the system.

These are the people that don't own anything or buy anything and therefore are not of value to the system.

I have lived in the third world. When I was in the Peace Corps, I lived in the Dominican Republic. I wish all of you could see what I have seen. I saw people who had so little, but would give me half in a heartbeat. I saw children make toys out of discarded trash. I actually toured some of the factories in the Free Trade Zone, which is where international companies can set up factories to exploit the cheap labor and dump the pollution, just like she shows in the video.

Those Free Trade Area factories were heartbreaking. The moment that stood out the most to me, was in a cheesy belt factory. They had all these young women braiding belts. Not nice belts, more like the belts that come with a cheap pair of pants or shorts. These women were silent as they stood (why couldn’t they have chairs?!) and braided these belts for shamefully long hours and low wages. And all I could think about was how many of those belts I had discarded over the years without ever wearing them because I only wore nicer belts, that I had purchase separately. These are all the costs that are never recorded.

Our front yard.

Their front yard.

Stay tuned for part 2

Oh, I have so much more to say, but this is already a lot to absorb. Let’s come back to the golden arrow of consumption and our lives consumers.

And don’t think we are going to make you feel like shit and  leave you hanging. Annie Leonard has a follow-up page about things you can do to address these problems. I have plenty of ways to help you redistribute you embarrassment of riches.  I am a craigslist / garage sale guru, how-to posts are forthcoming. If you have started you’re own Cosmic Colonic, I would recommend you just set up a holding area for stuff you don’t need. As it grows and you become more aware of all the stuff you have but don’t need, the universe will help you find the people that need your stuff the most.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mae
    Jul 22, 2009 @ 11:48:04

    I hear you sister!! I swear, I think you are a UU at heart because social justice is a big part of who you are!

    As for the stuff….. I do my part by minimizing. I tell people who want to give gifts to my kids that they can just give money towards their college fund. All the toys we do have, goes to charity or are hand-me-downs. Even at b-day parties, I HATE, HATE, HATE those stupid goody bags! What a waste of stuff! It just adds to the junk pile both at homes and on our dear Mother Earth. I give out balloons or stickers and that’s it. I know that’s still something but I try to make myself feel better thinking it’s not as bad.

    My husband grew up in a 3rd world country so he knows. I didn’t grow up in a 3rd world country but have had my share in travels, both for visiting family and for luxury. Yea, it’s sad how just next door to an exclusive resort there are very poor families. You should check out this link on my FB account about poor families who feed their kids food they find from garbages outside of restaurants. It’s heartbreaking.


  2. Margo
    Dec 22, 2009 @ 12:51:32

    I got here via Jez, and it was about time I watched this. Off to spread the word, and take some time to look at my own habits. Thanks.


  3. Trackback: No woman, no cry « Bonita Appleblog

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